PETER TROMP spoke to SA musical icon LOUISE CARVER about her new single ‘How You Gonna Do It’, which she will launch in the coming week in Cape Town with performances at Marimba Restaurant, CTICC, and at the Dorpstraat Restaurant Theatre @ Summerhill, as well as about her musical influences and drinking red wine with Mick Jagger.
How did you discover your talent for music, and when did you decide it was viable to pursue it as a career?
I started playing the piano and violin at five years old and was in a choir by six. From a very early age I was getting attention for my singing and by eleven I was composing my own music and lyrics. By fifteen I had started opera training and was also in my first band. That same year, I was signed to a record label and two years later I had my first no. 1 single, ‘It don’t matter.’ I have been in this industry nonstop from a teen and although I received my honours in Politics, Philosophy and Economics at UCT Cape Town, I have always known on a very spiritual level that this is my calling and something I was meant to be doing.
What has been some of your personal career highlights so far?
I loved performing in Belgium in an old Gothic church which was converted into a club. I also loved supporting Michael Buble for three nights at Kirstenbosch and meeting Nelson Mandela when 46664 made me an ambassador. Playing in front of 40000 people at the 46664 concert alongside Annie Lenox, Peter Gabriel , Hugh Masekele and Johnny Clegg was pretty amazing.
Tell us about the new single ‘How You Gonna Do It’. What sound did you strive for with the song?
My sound on this new album has been influenced by bands like Massive Attack and Faithless. I was looking for a more electronic sound but I still wanted every instrument to be played live on stage. If you have ever seen a live DVD of Faithless, you will be amazed at how many musicians are on stage creating all those sounds. For me, the lyrics, melody and piano will always be paramount to any of my productions, so although I learn from other musicians, I see myself as creating something different and unique with every album. ‘How You Gonna Do It’ is a song that is pacey, dangerous and if the director Hitchcock was alive today, he would hopefully use it in one of his movies.
The lyrical theme of a woman trying to flee the attentions of a possibly stalking ex-fiancé sounds quite sinister, and rather specific. Was there a real life inspiration for the song?
The song was inspired in part by my own experience, but embellished with everything I read in the papers and watch in the news. We live in a society where some men still see woman as something they can own and control and as a South African artist, it is reflected in my work.
Is the darker subject matter a prelude to similar themes on the forthcoming full-length album?
The new album is quite bi- polar and takes you on a journey through a myriad of emotions- from dark to light, which is how life seems to work.
Speaking of which, how is the album coming along, and when can we expect it to be released?
Almost done, but I just had to take a break whilst I am on tour with Nokia Lumia as I prefer not to divide my attention between studio and live performance. We are looking to be finished by end of July.
What can fans expect from you in your Cape Town gigs in support of the single?
They can expect to hear all their favourite songs from my past albums like ‘Home ‘ and ‘Warrior’ as well as the new single and the song I did with Pascal and Pearce, ‘Days Go By’. I will be flying down my entire crew so it will be a show which takes you from piano and voice all the way up to a full band on stage. I love going from gentle sounds to anthemic rock.
What are your chief musical inspirations for the album, and in general?
I start off every album with strong songs based on what I have experienced or am reflecting on and then I choose a genre of music that I am enjoying and would like to explore more of. I was listening to a lot of Faithless and Massive Attack last year and really loved all the interesting sounds and grooves they create. I go on to choose the producers that are super talented at creating that style of music and together we produce something completely different. At the end of the day, you can be inspired by something, but as an artist you need to be creating music that is completely unique.
You have been a major player in the SA music scene for a while now. What do you attribute your longevity to?
I am constantly challenged by this industry as it is always evolving and you can never be complacent. Plus I’m a hardworking, tenacious soul and I communicate best through music, so it’s the perfect environment for me. I am also incredibly thick skinned, which helps.
What are the major challenges facing artists in the SA music industry, specifically new artists trying to get noticed?
The biggest challenge for SA artists is that the music scene is still so divided by culture with radio stations not playing enough of a musical diversity, which then perpetuates this divide. There would be more money, greater creativity and larger audiences if the SA music scene was better integrated. When I did my collab with Zuluboy I realized how separate our fan bases are and it was wonderful to bridge the gap slightly with the song ‘Warrior’.
Describe Louise Carver, the person, in three words.
Independent; integrity; and compassionate
What do you like to do to relax when you’re not focussed on creating or promoting your music?
I love to visit my folks in Hermanus and just catch up with them. I usually stay in my pj’s the whole weekend and completely relax. In Joburg, I love walking my dogs and having some wine with friends. Anything where I don’t have to put on makeup and can stay in my jeans.
Are you still able to enjoy music as a fan after so many years of producing your own creations and witnessing the ins and outs of how the business operates?
Music produced and performed brilliantly is what inspires me to keep pushing myself creatively. I love all genres and am always keen, when I am travelling, to hear what other people are listening to and who they are watching live.
How does the song writing process work for you? What comes first? The melody, or the words? And which elements need to be in place for you to commit to nurturing a song through to its completion?
The melody and words come together – as I mess about on the keyboard, words form around the rhythm and notes. I instantly know when I have a good song – it just flows effortlessly. Most songs that I keep are composed in a couple of days. If I am not in that writing headspace, then whatever I write feels like I am lugging a heavy suitcase up a hill- usually I give up before I reach the top.
What, if push comes to shove, is your all time favourite album, and why?
Simon and Garfunkel’s ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’… now that’s poetry. Or Tracy Chapman’s debut album.
What do you usually sing in the shower?
Nothing. I actually don’t sing that much outside of the studio, rehearsals and shows – it’s my time to regenerate.
Finally, if you could hang out with any artist in the world and just geek out over music, who would it be?
I would love to drink red wine with Mick Jagger – that would be fun!
* The Marimba Restaurant performance will take place on Thursday June 28 at 8pm (book on 021 4183366 or at firstname.lastname@example.org) and the Dorpstraat Restaurant Theatre performance on Friday June 29 at 8.30pm (book on 021 889 9158 or at email@example.com).